The Mother by Gwendolyn Brooks
"The Mother," by Gwendolyn Brooks, is a sorrowful, distressing poem about a mother who has experienced numerous abortions. While reading the poem, you can feel the pain, heartache, distress and grief she is feeling. She is both remorseful and regretful; nevertheless, she explains that she had no other alternative. It is a sentimental and heart wrenching poem where she talks about not being able to experience or do things with the children that she aborted -- things that people who have children often take for granted. Perhaps this poem is a reflection of what many women in society are feeling.
The first stanza begins with a strong statement: "Abortions will not let you forget." It shows the sorrow and distress she is going through, grieving about future experiences (wondering, what might have been?) She says things like:
"You will never wind up the ...view middle of the document...
She then changes from speaking to the reader to focusing and explaining to her children why she did what she did. In her explanation she says:
"If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages,
aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,"
She is truly overcome with grief and overflowing with uncontrollable emotion. She is asking for sympathy and understanding when she says, "Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate." In addition, she passes the blame when she says, "Though why should I whine, / Whine that the crime was other than mine?" This suggests that she was pressured from another source -- a boyfriend, family member, or society.
She believes that she did what she had to do, in her circumstance. For whatever motive, whatever reason, she had an abortion. She presumably didn't think it was a crime, because an abortion is a legal act; however, the consciousness of her emotions has made her believe that it is criminal, and she feels guilt-ridden. She tries to pass off her guilt when she says, "Since anyhow you are dead," but quickly rebukes herself, metamorphosing the meaning by saying, "Or rather, or instead, / You were never made."
In the third stanza, she continues speaking to the reader where she left off in the second stanza. She is confused, trying to figure out what she did. She doesn't know how to identify what she had done, or perhaps she's afraid to identify it. She says, perplexed and bewildered, "You were born, you had body, you died." She tries to make excuses, denying what she did, but is overcome by her emotions. "Believe me, I loved you all. / Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you / All." She knew her children because they were growing inside her; they were a part of her body and her soul. She says the words, "Believe me...Believe me," twice to emphasize to them (and herself) that although she had an abortion, she truly and earnestly loved them -- forever.
Brooks, Gwendolyn. Selected Poems. New York: Perennial, 1999.